This post is more personal than some, but then at some time in many of our lives cancer gets personal. As many of you know, I have a companion and co-therapist named Boo. For the past 12 years Miss Boo has worked with me to help in therapy. We have worked with hundreds of children, adolescents and adults in settings ranging from special needs classrooms, alternative schools and outpatient settings. And for the past decade we have been working together in my private practice.
This past Spring Boo developed a form of cancer known as osteosarcoma, which is a form of cancer where the tumor grows in the bone. In her case, Boo began limping and we discovered that she had it in her front right leg. What followed was a series of scary tests and decisions. The recommended treatment for this in dogs is amputation of the limb and a course of chemo. I was worried about this on so many levels: I didn’t want to lose my friend, I didn’t want her to be in pain, and how was I doing to explain this to my patients? You can’t just have a dog show up one week with one less leg and be all blank screen about it. Some people suggested I retire her, but so many people come to me with ruptures in attachment, people who just walked out on them or were taken from them, that that didn’t make sense either. Nope, we were going to do this honestly and mindfully. If Boo could show up for such a challenging treatment, I could show up for her and we could show up for our patients.
Over the next few weeks I let people know what was going on if they wanted to know, to the extent they wanted to know. While she was recovering from surgery I let people know that as well. And when Boo came back to work, well that was a powerful week. Cancer changes your body, but the self persists. Boo had a visible change, there was a scar. Some people approached petting her, some didn’t. Boo accepted all of them. Some people were reluctant to talk at first, imagining their problems were nothing compared to cancer or losing a leg, but we explored and put those concerns in perspective. We all had work to do, and we did it.
Time passed, and chemo ended. This is the result:
Each year, I take part in Extra Life, a worldwide celebration of the social impact of gamers of all kinds from video games to board games and tabletop RPG’s! Since 2010, Extra Life has raised more than $14 million to help children’s hospitals provide critical treatments and healthcare services, pediatric medical equipment, research and charitible care. Your donation is tax-deductible and ALL PROCEEDS go to help kids nationwide and locally at my awesome colleagues at Boston Children’s Hospital.
This year, on November 7th, I’ll be playing World of Warcraft with a special avatar in honor of Boo. (Of course I’ll be taking breaks every 45 minutes to keep my health ans stamina in good shape.) If you want to join our team, Miss Boo’s Battalion, you can do that too!* You don’t have to play WoW, you can play Minecraft, Dark Souls, Candy Crush, my colleague Jane McGonigal’s Superbetter, Zombies Run!, anything. You can play Tabletop games like D&D or Pathfinder. You don’t have to go 24 hours straight, any amount of time, anything you raise, helps. Sharing the post helps too–you never know who might decide to donate or get their game on.
Miss Boo is my hero, and if you are living with cancer in your life you are my hero too. Whether you are battling it yourself, defeating it, thriving after it, supporting someone who is, celebrating a win or grieving a loss, you are a hero. On Saturday, November 7th, why not be a hero too?
*Past and present patients are asked to refrain to protect their privacy, but can always get involved with Extra Life on their own here.